Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign Down 8%
Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign Down 8%

The Salvation Army is an estimated 8% behind last year for its annual Red Kettle Campaign, a possible indicator of the overall U.S. economy and giving challenges during this holiday season.

Reporting of numbers from across the nation in generally roughly a week behind, said Dale Bannon, national community relations and development director of the Salvation Army. As of Dec. 15, donors had placed $55 million into the iconic kettles, compared to $60 million last year.

The Red Kettle Campaign raised $109.3 million last year. Between 40% and 50% of the annual total is donated during the last week of the campaign. The Red Kettle Campaign runs from Thanksgiving Day to Dec. 24 and due to a quirk in the calendar runs for an extra day this year compared to last. The winter storms paralyzing much of the nation have turned this last week “into a nail-biter,” said Bannon.

There are approximately 25,000 kettle locations managed by the 7,200 centers of operation. The Red Kettle campaign has its origins in 1891 as a Salvation Army captain’s startup program in San Francisco.

One of the challenges is that the number of volunteer bellringers plummeted during COVID and has not recovered, from 2.7 million volunteers to 1.3 million. Volunteer bellringers generally bring in $80 an hour, between three and four times that of paid bellringers. 

The paid bellringers are part of a Salvation Army employment program, but the organization is having trouble filling those slots.

The revenue from Red Kettle stays locally, said Bannon and can make up as much as 25% of a local operating budget. Each year the organization holds a national contest to see which local organization can out-ring the national commander. This year’s winner was Orlando and it appears the south and northeast are being the most successful so far with kettles, he said.

Bannon said that around the nation, $3 million was raised during the four-hour competition.

The Salvation Army ranked fourth in this year’s NPT 100, the ranking of the nation’s largest nonprofits that raise at least 10% of revenue from the public. The Salvation Army reported revenue of $4.39 billion for fiscal 2021. The organization raised $1,008,000 more than last year during the recent GivingTuesday due to a $1 million Sam’s Club match.